Saturday, May 22, 2010

Who was Mother Goose?

I never realized how many Mother Goose Rhymes were packed in my head until I had a baby. Suddenly I found myself singing songs and rhymes that I hadn't thought about for years like "Hey Diddle Diddle", "This Little Piggie" and "Rock-a-Bye Baby". Wow, how did these rhymes get stored for all of those years?

Discovery my lost store of Mother Goose rhymes made me wonder where Mother Goose came from. I never thought about it as a child, she was always depicted as an old woman or a goose surrounded by children.

As I pondered the origin of Mother Goose I wondered if she was ever an actual person or merely a fictional character. I turned to Google first for the answer to my question and of course I wasn't disappointed by the results. I've gathered the information I thought was important and decided to share it here.

The first written account of Mother Goose doesn't tell us much. In 1650 the French critic Jean Loret mentioned Mother Goose in a monthly periodical which contains the line "comme un conte de la Mere Oye" which means "like a Mother Goose story". This text tells us that the concept of Mother Goose was well known at least in France in the mid 17th century.

The second text referring to Mother Goose was published in 1697 by a French man named Charles Perrault. The book was a called "Histories and Tales of Long Ago, with Morals". The title page of the book said "Tales of Mother Goose" and had a picture of an old woman telling stories. The book included stories like "Little Red Riding Hood", "Cinderella" and "Sleeping Beauty" but it did not contain any of the rhymes that we associate with Mother Goose today. This book was translated into English in 1729.

Newbury Publishing House in London published a book called "Mother Goose's Melody - or Sonnets for the Cradle" in 1780. This books contained over 50 traditional English nursery rhymes and songs along with illustrations. An American edition of this book was published in 1780.

It seems from the time "Mother Goose's Melody" was published most books referencing Mother Goose contained the traditional English rhymes and songs that we know of today.

There are rumors and urban legends stating that Mother Goose was a real person but there aren't any facts to support these. It seems Mother Goose is simply a collection of tales, songs and rhymes that were passed from one generation to the next by word of mouth. There's something almost magical about that fact, it's as if Mother Goose rhymes are a part of some sort of collective consciousness. It boggles my mind just a little bit to think that the songs I sing to my daughter have been song to children for over 200 years. I hope that someday she will sing the same songs to her child.

 Want to share Mother Goose with your children? "Mother Goose Remembers" is a beautiful collection of 46 time honored nursery rhymes. This book includes a CD with rhymes and songs from the book

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